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tv   Father and Daughter Pilots Reflect on September 11 2001  CSPAN  September 24, 2017 4:30pm-5:55pm EDT

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about their citizenship rights and up to intervene to protect them. >> watch the entire program on sunday at 8:00 p.m. and midnight eastern. this is american history tv. >> announcer: heather penney was one of the first d.c. pilots to scramble to andrews air force base after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. her father john penney was a united airlines captain. major heather penney talks about her experiences that day. the smithsonian national air and space museum hosted this event, which is about one hour and 20 minutes long. christopher: good evening. i am chris browne, the director of the national aviation air and space museum. since 1982, this lecture series has spotlighted for the 140 of the biggest names in modern aviation history. this is presented free of
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charge. this is possible thanks to the generous support of g.e. aviation. programs like theirs are critical to our exhibitions. it is my privilege to thank them for our long-standing support. the digital solutions leader of military solutions at g.e. aviation, lisa, our colleagues at g.e., we thank you for your substantial and it enduring support. [applause] >> and since we opened the museum on the mall, and our housing center, and then in chantilly in 2003, more than 250 million people have walked through our doors to be informed and inspired by the history of
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flight and space travel. drawing from the priceless collection of iconic artifacts and intellectual trust, our curators, volunteers, and others, and ever to tell stories about aerospace and how it is defined and shaping the american experience. this evening we are joined by a father-daughter team who by virtue of their professional roles on september 11, 2001, offer us a unique glimpse into the horrors and tragedy of that day. not every aviation stories uplifting or happy. indeed, for those of us professionally committed to the
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furtherance of aerospace, the horrific use of their vehicles for domestic terror was particularly disturbing but yet we endured as a community. the aviation industry has become more accessible, more affordable, more sufficient, and even more influential than ever before. 9/11, for all of its pain and tragedy is a story to be told and remembered. to help do that i would like to introduce heather "lucky" penney. heather, most recognized for her service, she was part of those who went first into pilot training. she grew up around planes and warbirds and applied to the national guard to fly f-16's as soon as she heard the the army had opened combat flight to women. heather deployed to a operation
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iraqi freedom for initial operations in nighttime sky day in western desert iraq. heather flew the f-16 for 10 years before joining lockheed martin as the director of training systems specializing in strategic development. her passion has never faded. she has raced just and has over 3000 hours in transport pilot ratings and volunteers with the college foundation co-piloting their b-17 when her busy schedule permits. she enjoys flying her own cessna along with her family and rescue dog, fittingly named gilmore after roscoe turner's lien. it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you heather "lucky" penney. [applause] heather: so, thank you for coming out here. lisa, thank you for the generosity of ge to support this lecture series.
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what the aerospace museum does is allow the museum to tell these stories. like mine. so that people like yourself can experience aviation and history in a far more personal and tactful manner than when you can simply see the signs next to the airplane. so again lisa, thank you for
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everything you and g.e. are doing to make it possible for people like me to come listen to my heroes on the podium. i am not calling myself a hero at all, because 9/11 was nothing that any of us planned. you all know because you all have your stories and your experiences of 9/11. every single one of us, every single american, was somehow touched by that day. we all have our connections. we all somehow lost people, loved ones, so i appreciate the fact that you were all here today to listen to my 9/11 story because really, all i did that they would show up for work. right?
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we had just gotten back from two weeks at red flag which was at that point in my time as a young baby fighter pilot the pinnacle of what i could ever hope for. i had dropped bombs, i had been there for my time on target, we had just gotten back from that that cairo weekend. we had landed on saturday. most people had taken that monday and tuesday and wednesday off to reconnect with family. i was single at the time so i went home on sunday, did laundry, and was ready to go to
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work. so, that tuesday when we were going through the normal administration of running a fighter squadron, but just we have? what are we going to be flying? we were traditional mostly at the time with guard units. a guard is comprised of a few full-time staff to make sure that the internet runs and all of the administration and it is taking care of so that when the fighters show up they can jump in the jets and train. i was one of those few full-time staff. who needs check rights? who is doing upgrades? we had just gotten back from red flag said the jets were fitted out with fuel tanks, pods, training missiles. we were moving into a training phase. basically fighter maneuvering. the maintainers, it was going to take them a wild to pool the fuel tanks. gone to take them a while to reconfigure the jets so we had slick --, we had our gr noses off. we had a few guys we could send down to the ranges in north carolina.
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lou shooter campbell was bully one. eric was bully 2. hutchinson was bully three. they leave, they head off. they are headed to north carolina. a little bit of low angle straits. everyone loves shooting a gun. i have never seen a fighter pilot put bullets on and not go "brrrrt!"" we all make that noise. there was a knock on the door. it was david. he said, an airplane just flew into the world trade center. we looked outside because our conference center was right on the site line. huge plate glass windows. we're thinking, how does that
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happen? as you know, new york city is not that far away. it is really just a stone flow as far as a bird flies. we look outside, it is a perfect crystal out of day. how? what? we're thinking, you know, did someone blow their approach into laguardia? it must've been one of those sightseeing airplanes going down the hudson. we made a couple jokes about the little airplanes bouncing off the buildings. they certainly don't do any damage. they fall to the ground.
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and, we continued on. it was not really anything that triggered us. until a few minutes later a knock on the door again and chunks said another airplane flew into the world trade center. it was on purpose. we got up from our chairs and walked to the bar where we had the television. we saw what everyone else in america sought that day. we saw the footage of these airliners crashing into the trade centers. and, we were absolutely stunned. so, people have asked how could
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this event be possible? i mean, didn't we have aircraft on alert? well, once upon a time we were on alert that was before we got our f-16s. we gave up alerts when we shifted from the -- to the force. it had been a long time since we had alerts because a few were called in 1991 when the wall fell and the soviet union hell, we did not need it anymore, right? the soviet bear was gone. we pared down our entire military. on september 10, on september 11, there was really only for units sitting on alert looking out over the oceans and over the polar region to ensure that no stray bombs came over the north ball. i mean, that was the paradigm we were living in. so no one ever imagined that the threat would come from inside. we had never, we just had never conceived that something so ingenious in the most horrible
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way could be done. so, nearly immediately our dl at the time, he goes to the operations desk and dan kane who is our weapons officer turned to me and said, lucky i need you and igor to build a sum dtc plus. get is some lending data. i do not know what it will look like, we will just make it happen. so brandon and i went to the planning room and started mission planning for something,
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we don't know what. again, i mean, this is not the defense encounter and air mission i had trained for you had to do. there was a certain point where you had a combat air patrol and appointed imed you funding but defending against who? we don't have -- we just have our own itty-bitty radar. we do not know who is hostile. who is friendly. and, nothing is clear. everything is confused as you can imagine. but we do our best. we print out our lineup cards. our takeoff and landing data. we get two sets because some jets are clean, some are still dirty in the air to ground configuration. we print out maps. we put points on top of where we know government buildings are, memorials are. we load up our data transfer cartridges. they are like these big thumb drives for your jets where you can take on data and put it in
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the jet and downloaded so you can accelerate and program all the way down. we get that done. igor and i go to the ops desk. i need to go through a little bit of bureaucracy because the national guard in washington, d.c., is not like the national guard in any other state. in other states, you know, the national guard has two teams and command. the federal chain of command which occurs when you get activated to deploy. in that case, you will are brought to the active-duty air force and for all intents and purposes you are active-duty air force. federal chain of command. the civilian chain of command goes up to the state of government. we are seeing that now with
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texas and florida and montana and washington, oregon, activating elements of their national guard to serve their domestic requirement to protect their people in their state. so there is a very clear chain of command goes up to government. well, washington, d.c., does not have a governor and our chain of command does not go to the mayor. our chain of command, our civilian one, goes to the president of the united states. as you can imagine, he was pretty busy at that point in time. and, honestly, i do not think even realized that we were a resource that he had because his authority was traditionally delegated down through the secretary of the army. and, that was certainly not what the secretary of the army was thinking, how do we get this up over washington, d.c. that was not on his mind. so we are trying to get activated so that we can, we are
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trying to get the chain of command energized, we are to find someone who has the legal authority to tell us to launch. how do we get that? because, we cannot just take off on our own. there is a very real and important reason why civilians have the command of our military. so, as much as we know we need to be airborne we can't. so we are grounded. our general officer david had come down from the winged building and was sitting by the ops desk making phone calls. trying to find someone to energize through his -- you know, he is our top guy. he is making as many phone calls
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as he can. dan kane, "raising" kane -- our commander, he makes a call to the ops desk. it is where we keep our missiles, bullets, bombs. we do have some live missiles. but we do not fly with them everyday. you certainly would not want live bombs flying over your house on a daily basis if we have no intention of dropping them or using them. and, that would not make any sense to us either because it was simply wear out the system. and by the way, we don't keep the explosives and fuses in the bomb body all built up ready to go. you have it all separated. you have to build it. it takes time. for example, when we go to war it is a three-day cycle from the planning process to come down to
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the wing for the bomb to know how many bombs they need to build, to put that together, to bring it out of the flight line. it does not happen instead tenuously. so they call the bomb jump and tells them to build us up the main line. some heat-seeking sidewinders. can you imagine if you are one of the enlisted airman down in the palm deck? you are not watching television? you are probably in the middle of a card game. and you get a call from the weapons officer and he says, build me up some missiles. live ones. just trust me. can you imagine what would be going through your mind? you have no air testing order. you have no legal way for work, no paper trail to prove this is a legal order for you to execute. so, it really is a testament to the vision, leadership, and the courage that "raisin' must've had to make that phone
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call. even though in my case, it would not be in time. being in washington, d.c., something unique operating out of andrews, we always had to deal with the hassle of air force one. any time a distinguished visitor moves on andrews air force base, especially when it is the president, the entire air force base closed down. you cannot drive on the perimeter, you can't take off, you can't land. for very good reason, too procure the important leaders of our nation. but when you are a little fighter that burns a lot of gas and uses it quickly, it is a problem. so we had been working with the secret service to try to develop better coordination so that we could facilitate our training as well as meet their security
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requirements. that is part of developing that relationship. we had the secret service and our unit, flung them in the back of the f-16 to prove we are good guys. so we knew who they were and they knew who we were. as a result, it was when the pentagon was hit that vice president cheney said, we have some fighters and andrews? somebody get those guys airborne. and they knew who to call. i mean, as i mentioned, when we had -- in the 1990's and we drew down all of our forces, drew down our alert forces, we were no longer sitting alert, either, even if -- even if the first air force, if that authority had known we were
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andrews, i don't even know that they would -- they would not had the legal authority to be able to activate us. it -- it is a really unfortunate lesson that has real world consequences. dick cheney -- [indiscernible] no -- he looked at me and said, you are with me. you take igor. we run down the hallway to life support. we are putting on g-suits. i am putting on my vest. throwing on my harness. i got my helmet. i got my ai got my akc. i got my vest. i knew i would take the tail.
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i remember my dad had been involved in a safety investigation analyzing a crash of a 737 out of colorado springs and they had the vertical and horizontal tail locked and the airplane just went straight in. there was just nothing left. there was no way they could've pulled out, no with a could of controlled it. and the other thing, they would not of glided in. there would be no pattern of debris. it would just be straight down. so i knew i would take the tale. we were running out. as fast as we could go. as fast as i could go. he outran me. he is a major, he is an old guy. with all my flight gear it kind of nearly doubled my body weight. i ran to the next one. again, recall that you know, i am just a brand new lieutenant. i recently had become combat mission-ready. i just went to my first red flag. as every pilot knows, it is when you begin to deviate from your habit had instead mistakes are
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made. so i went up to my jet and i put my gear down and i shake his hand and i grab the forms and i look through and he goes, lucky what the hell are you doing? get in the jet! it was not because i was negligent, it was because i knew that if anything in my life mattered, that was it. and, i could not screw it up. you are recalling, we had sent a ship to the air force -- while we were working to try to get the authorization launch, while i was making dtc's and lineup cards, he was calling to get missiles don't up. our supervisor, doc thompson had this big fluffy vietnam mustache, he was just a crusty old fighter pilot and i loved
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him. i respected him. he had just good tactful horse-sense. he called them home. he told them to buster. that means come home as fast as you can without using your afterburner. said those guys are coming back as fast as they possibly can. i did not realize, none of us knew just yet, when doc called down there that believed to have run himself out of gas. he had reached bingo which meant he no longer had fueled to play on the ranges. it rather had just enough fuel to come home. so shooter clears pack off.
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he says, go home and we will go home, finish up the mission, finish the debrief later. so puck bully 2 is on his way helmet and another gets a call. where did he go? washington does not want to let me in the airspace. ok bully 2 head home, i will take care of this. doc puts the phone down, picks it up to get bully 2 home. then in a couple minutes puck calls back and says bully 2 go. they're asking me if i've any missiles or bombs of onboard. don't you worry about that, just come on home.
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the center had been asking air if he had those weapons on board because they needed to know in case they could somehow find a way to use them. now, the bullies were still living in the pre-9/11 world, right? we all know there was a pre-9/11 world and a post-9/11 world. what mattered was to find that doorway. if you had seen the images. on that day, some of us were still living in a pre-9/11 world because who could have imagined something like that happening? those of us who had seen it, we are now living in that post-9/11 world. so puck had no idea what was
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going on. he came down and landed. we had bully 1 and bully 2, shooter and billie coming home. it was until a few weeks later that i had the opportunity to listen to puck. as he was coming and getting ready to land, he was pulling up the air drum terminal information system. it is a loop. an audio loop transmitted every
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hour to give pilots the information they need to know to plan. whether, barometric pressure, landing, runway, any information you need to know to plan. it lands the workload of the air traffic controllers. this is what puck adis said, this is andrews information bravo. andrews air force base is close. bravo airspace is close. any aircraft trying to enter will be shot down. so, i am in my jet. so, i am in my jet. and i now realize [chuckling] -- i have to throw the lookout. -- throw the book out. i don't even bother strapping him. normally it is about a 20-minute process to strap in, wake your jet up, check all your systems,
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configure navigation, get your avionics set up right, i had been doing a close-by little dogfighting mission. 10 minutes most. at that point, we did not have gps on the aircraft. we had just uploaded to the ringleader ins system. it only took eight minutes not eight minutes -- 18 minutes so we were high-speed. we did not have 20 minutes. we did not have 10. we didn't h ave 8. we needed to go. i didn't bother strapping young. the mantra, the rhythm, the dance to the response you do with your crew chief was out the windows. i was relying on my knowledge to know what i needed to do.
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battery on. start. 20%, over the help to idle. i am watching my temperature. i'm good. i am yelling at my crew chief, pull the choke. -- pull the chocks. pull the chocks. i did not have a radar. there is no data link in the aircraft. all i have right now is my engine and i have waking up the rest of the airplane as i can. they pulled the locks. pulled the chocks. i am taxiing. and, my crew chief is still plugged in and he is running underneath me. other crew chiefs are running underneath me pulling the pens out of my external fuel tanks, gears, other things. as we are taxiing on my tapes, i call "two's up."
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shooter and billy, bully 1 and bully 2 checks on fuel. 2, dog says we think there is another one coming down the river. you have fuel for one pass up and down the river. billy takes off. first one airborne. he takes off, stays low, goes northwest over the center gone -- over the pentagon, up to great falls, turns around, down the potomac, down where the potomac books into the bay and come that, and lance. we take off seconds after him. so, we take off and we head northeast into a serene and
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peaceful and silent sky. there is no one airborne. we head out to the northwest and we never find anything. we were not heroes that day. the passengers on flight 93 were the heroes. so, you can see why you believe that what i was willing to do that day was nothing special. because anyone would've been willing to do what i was willing to do and what they actually did. they were average, at every day americans. who realized there were things in this world more important than themselves. and, although they might not have raised their hand and taken an oath to give their life in
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our nation's defense, they did. so they were the true heroes. [sniffles] [sighs] the d.c. guard commanded the air force patrol for two weeks after 9/11. for the guard to own the authorization of that combat air patrol was truly unique and different. we did it because there was a lot of untangling to do after that day. as you can imagine, trying to go through what was wrong, figure out the appropriate lines of
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authority, lines of command, and even something as mundane as how do you schedule and provide to ensure we can protect our nation's capital? these were all the projects we were dealing with over the next few weeks. not me, i was just a line flyer. i'm pulling a midnight-4:00 a.m. night air combat patrol. our commander, jeff johnson , was in the pentagon doing a lot of that. he is wearing his flight suit. he has his patches on. if you understand how that works, you know, not only was -- you know the aircrew but you can decode what the patches mean. so, h e gets stopped by some guy
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in the pentagon that says, are you from the d.c. guard? he says, yeah. let me tell you a story. this is a story he told "tuna" and the story that "tuna" told us. when the pentagon was hit, they of course evacuated everyone. people went flowing into self parking, most likely got in their cars and drove away. but for the people who had to evacuate through the north parking were trapped. they were coming out the river entrance and they were coming out to north parking, going over the bridge that goes over 110 and getting stuck in that parking lot that is in between route 110 and the potomac river. they cannot go anywhere. because there were evacuation
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procedures for primarily fire, not something like this. and the wind was light. it was a perfect flying day. out of the southwest. so, it was blowing the smoke and ashes in the air up over the center and actually write up -- right over north parking. and there is a child development center, it is still there but it is closed now. the women are evacuating the babies out of the center. their procedures are for fire drills. so they are pushing out these cribs with four babies to a crib. six toddlers to a buggy, right? but they cannot stay next to the building. they have got to get up the stairs and over the bridge to get to north parking but they do
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not have enough people to do that because it was not something they were manned for. it should not have been. so these women are giving babies away. as people are coming out of the pentagon, they are literally handing babies to strangers. i cannot take them all away. can you please get them to safety. take them away. they are giving babies away. but once they get to north parking, they are trapped. the ashes are falling on them. the air is acrid and smoking. it was. the pentagon burned for weeks, months afterwards. they know something is coming. if you remember, this is before everyone had a cell phone in their pocket, right? i mean, if you are really somebody might have a pager. they know there is something else coming. they don't know what, they don't know when. they are not at their desks so they cannot refresh that
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information. they are simply waiting. they are trapped. and then billy hutchinson comes zooming over them in full afterburner. and out of the silence they are -- erupt into cheers because they know we are now airborne. that american air fighter jets are airborne and we are not going to let anyone hurt them. they are going to be ok. i think that now, with the years between me and that day, and again, i was there just as i showed up for work. and anyone would have been willing to do what i was willing to do. and i know that because not only because the passengers on flight
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93 proved it, but when you look at what everyone up in new york did. the heroism of the first responders running toward the towers and not a ways. the individuals in that towers who helped each other get out, saved each other's lives, and about this. the people who cleaned up the towers. going to work every day knowing they would die for what they were doing. and they did it every day and anyways. so, when i look back on that day, with the years being able to reflect upon what it might mean, it is strange to see this -- say this but i actually have hope because we showed who we are as americans. we are not a fearful people.
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we are not a weak people. we do not shy from hardship and we know that there are things in this world that are more important than ourselves. that are more important than our own personal safety. and that risk, it is worth taking. it is worth taking for the same thing, us, collectively, together. america. our constitution. baseball, mom, apple pie, freedom, our way of life. these are things that matter. these are things that bring us together. so, when i think back, as hard as that day has been far our
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-- for our nation, it gives me hope. thank you. [applause] christopher: thank you, heather. we do all have stories as to where we were and how that date impacted us. as i segue into the next part of our program and make our next introduction, allow me a moment to sort of share a context that
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might help with the introduction. on 9/11, i was the airport manager of reagan international and so i thought from the ground, like most of us and i don't want to take your time now because actually if i do my job well i will save time for questions from you all later but i think, as you know, we were closed at national not for three days but we remained closed following after all the other airports reopened and it was rather disconcerting and we did not know whether to mothball the airport, put it on life support, to close it. you may recall from my opening remarks, in 2003 -- there were people who mentioned to me in 2001, why don't we turn reagan into an annex for hobby. -- for the hosi.
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most people did not think national was going to reopen. vice president cheney and the secret service were dead set against it. it was interesting because they would say, we cannot have aircraft close to the airport. and yet, when the system reopened in the course of the day, 18,000 aircraft were within 30 minutes flight time of reagan international. there were things put in place afterwards in retrospect you wonder, did it make much sense? many of us worked very hard to go ahead and take the actions necessary to reopen reagan. and, from my perspective, from a background of flying, it is startling to me that there was this idea that somehow the nation's capital could not be sufficiently protected and a way that would allow aviation to proceed. because on aircraft carriers, we are in harms way all the time.
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but we had very distinct procedures you have to follow to get back on that ship when you are 100 miles off of lebanon. i can assure you, and a 14 back from a4 coming ship, we did not follow very prescribed flight procedures. if we did not wear going to get shut down and so i met with secretary norm monadnock, one of of thismanetta, one country's great, great americans who is arguably the one who shut down the airspace on that day. and, as a side note, what air-traffic did that day is a heroic and a story in itself. but i remember going to his office at the time and showing him a picture of an aircraft carrier. and i said, think of national as an aircraft carrier. what we need to do is to go by
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procedures. profiles, squat, chicken, all the various things on the ship. do that and you can get airplanes in and out of here. and oh by the way, you might not know -- you could see them from the airport. and somebody did not follow those procedures, there was a rule of engagement to shoot them down. so, i do not know that that suggestion carried the day but i do know what came out of it was this idea that yes, you can have flight into a high area and do areay into a high threat and do it safely and successfully if you have receivers. the idea that you had to stay seated for 30 minutes before a flight kind of went away for obvious reasons. but at the end of the day, 3.5 weeks later, the decision the president made was to reopen and to reopene decision and i recall going back over to
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the secretary's office on a tuesday and he said, -- and i went into the foyer and who was in there smoking a cigarette -- a bunch of the ceos were sitting there and said -- i don't think you can do that here. and secretary minetta had summoned the ceos. those who cannot make it wanted - were on the telephone and said, the president once to reopen national can you do it in 48 hours? i was sitting there thinking, every cabdriver, restaurant operator, rental car worker, everyone was gone. i was thinking, this is sort of like starting a jet. it normally takes time to get back into the game. without skipping a beat, every ceo said, yes, sir, we will be ready. i am sitting there thinking, you do not even know where your people are. the reality is, we did reopen but it was very limited. 10 flights a day. we eventually joined the rest of the aviation system and
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reopened. and sometimes it is the day after what happened after 9/11 that is as informative and impressive in my mind as many of the action set people took on that date itself. among the commercial airline pilots who boldly returned to their cockpits and help restore our nation's most critical and from -- most critical transportation infrastructure was heather's dad john. during his academy years he built model airplanes, sale -- flew sail planes, earned a degree in aeronautical engineering. he flew combat missions in vietnam. after the war, he served as an aviation instructor.
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after his first brief stint with the airlines with united, he landed a job with lear at reno airport where he worked for 5.5 years as an engineer and test pilot. he became associated with and joined the rare bear air team and flew in his first champion race in 1975. he kept his hand and military aviation by joining the nevada international air guard. he started his own business -- flight testing and instructing u.s. and foreign aircraft including the big 15 mig21 and others. his perspective as a commercial aviator with united which he rejoined after 9/11 and as the father of a daughter tasked with defending our skies that day is
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truly unique. we will hear from both of them now. i invite heather and john back to the podium. [applause] john: thank you, chris. it is an honor to be here to share some perspectives as the father of a fighter pilot, as an air pilot, now retired from united airlines. i'd like to thank lisa and the g.e. corporation and todd and bill who are here sponsoring this event. it is an honor to be here and speak to you. i would like to share with you a few things and events that happened on the day of 9/11 and some perspectives that we gained from that day and things that happened that affected us as a family and as pilots of the
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united and as all americans. the morning of 9/11, actually, my wife and i were starting the first of 30 days of vacation i had stored up for a couple years. the activities that morning were pretty much normal morning activities. breakfast, coffee. until my younger brother eric called and said, is your tv on? i said, no. he said, turn on the tv so we did and it is everywhere. at that time, both of the towers had been hit. it was obvious the united states was under attack at that point. my wife stephanie was distraught at that time and i did everything i could to reassure her. i said, heather is ok. she's airborne.
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of course, little did i know what was going on. it seemed to calm some of her fears, though. so we got on the phone and tried to call heather immediately and of course as i am sure all of you know, the telephones were jammed. there was no way to get through. my wife got on and emailed to heather, what is going on? after heather's first mission when she got on the ground she emailed back and said, i'm ok. i am fine. i am busy. i will call you tonight. sometime soon thereafter, heather's twin sister, jill, called us up and said, i need to talk to my sister. i need to talk to her now. the phones were jammed so she could not get through and we
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could not get through. heather called that evening. she said, i'm home. i'm tired, i'm going to bed. we did not know what had get happened with that first mission she had described. the only noise we heard in the skies above were the f-15's patrolling from the international guard base. the air force base in denver. and some of them came over low. some had afterburner. and, folks -- we found out also that day that jason dahl, captain jason dahl
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was the captain on flight 93, united flight 93. a friend of ours. his wife called and told us about what had happened with jason's airplane and as you all know the airplane crashed in pennsylvania. now, there was a three-way link between heather, jason, and myself. that was the flight that heather and lieutenant colonel were searching for after they launched out of andrews air force base, unbeknownst to them, flight 93 had already crashed even as they were getting airborne so that is why they never found it. the airplane crashed.
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now, captain jason dahl and i shared an office cubicle at the united airlines flight training center. he had a picture of his son matt who i believe at that time he was still in high school. and his lovely wife, sandy. we were bragging about everything they did, all the fun they had, his love for his wife, sandy. after the events of 9/11, there was a memorial service in denver at the church. and there were fighter pilots, -- 400 united pilots, we were
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all in our uniforms. this was not a mega church they went to but i guess you could call it about atari moore -- as big as where you're sitting now. it was standing there. -- standing room only there. eulogy was given by his son matt. jason's son. he was poised. he was very articulate. it was a beautiful eulogy. there was not a dry eye in the house. to this day, i do not know how he stood there and did that. after the service, another fund funeral a united
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pilot said, john, tomorrow let's put our uniforms on and go out to denver international airport and go into the terminal and talk to the passengers. i said, that is a great idea. we did that. we went out to dia, spent several hours going up and down the terminal talking to passengers trying to reassure them about the security and safety of flying on all of the airlines, not just united airlines. for some people, it was very emotional and they were very touch. for other folks, they were very stoic and showed a lot of courage to be, you know, good, moral americans and get up and travel again in the skies. we hope that was a meaningful experience for them. i'm sure that was a meaningful experience for myself. i can guarantee you that. there are some anecdotal accounts by other pilots. things that happened on 9/11 and
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afterwards. after the initial attack, and ground control and the tower, anybody they could get a hold of, they turned them around and sent them back to the gate out at dulles airport. i talked to actually one of the captains and he said, as soon as they parked and shut down and opened the door, several young males, middle eastern in a appearnace, jumped up and ran forward out the door of the aircraft and disappeared into the crowds in the terminal. it can only be supposed what might have happened had that airplane gotten airborne. i won't theorize about that but i think you might know. the four airplanes used as weapons were not the only ones they had planned for that day.
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there were other accounts and some other pilots i talked to after 9/11 that had gone up in altitude and cruising. there were incidences, once, twice, of again, young men that probably came from that part of the world would get up and were moving rapidly up the aisle toward the cockpit area and then it would stop and sit down and go back and sit in their seats. so again we can only surmise , perhaps maybe they were trying to probe. i do not know. i do not know what came of any reports of those incidents. i know that people were searched by the fbi or secret service. i had my own personal experience prior to 9/11. we had heard some reports in airline crews as
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you difference had been stolen, some of their hotel rooms in their layovers had been broken into. i think in one hotel room, a guy answered the door and a guy knocked on it and subdued the guy who answered it and overpowered him and stole his uniform. and they ran off. back at that time, you might surmise they were just trying to get a free ride in the cut it as -- a free ride in the cockpit, much like who was in that movie? the name of the movie, heather? >> "catch me if you can." >> catch me if you can. yes. i don't know if the movie was made yet, but that was a scenario. get a uniform and try to get a free ride in the cockpit wherever you want to go. i had a layover, i think you are all obviously local to washington. is it the courtyard marriott out of dulles airport, next to the terminal, i think it is --
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anyway i had a trip i had a , layover at the hotel at the airport and a early in the morning there was a knock on my door. so, i get up and i look out and guess what the gentleman looks like? outside that door? i said, who is it? he said, sir, we had a report of a problem with the air-conditioning. i said, just a minute, let me put my clothing on. i ran back and got on the phone and called the front desk and said, have you sent anybody from engineering to come and work of my air-conditioning? they said, no. i went back to the door and looked out the peephole and there was nobody there. foolishly i opened the door to take a look. they could've been hiding.
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i looked up and down the hallway and the person was gone. i got dressed, and immediately went to the desk and said that they were from engineering. that was prior to 9/11. only a few weeks prior. so that was a dot. it could've been connected to other dots. there were some in flight school who said, i do not want to know how to land the plane -- only to fly it. the dots were not being connected. some of the reports were made to the fbi but nothing was done. they did not communicate to the secret service are, and they were not pursued. the dots i saw that morning, i must admit i did not try to get it connected to anything. now, many of you, almost everybody in this country, has a tie to something that happened on that day of 9/11, or somebody, whether they were involved in some activities or
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tragically killed as a result of the terrorist act. my wife stephanie and i live in evergreen, and there are for families on that court. three out of the four families on that court had a tie to something or someone from 9/11. obviously, my wife, stephanie and i come and our daughter, heather. and the mission she performed on that day with honor. right across our court, the gentleman and his wife who moved in there, he had been an executive at a financial services company that had their offices up on one of the upper floors on one of the twin towers. if i recall correctly, you think -- i think he told us that they lost about 12 or 15 friends that morning. courtt the bottom of the
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the couple down there, their son , joe, worked for a company that was either at the bottom of one of the trade towers or the building in neatly next to it. -- the building immediately next to it. on 9/10, do you ever have 9/10? you only have 9/11. joe worked very, very late that night and into the next morning and he decided to sleep in and did not come into work that morning. and whether or not he would've perished, whether he could've been one of the people escaped, we will never know but he on a normal course of events did not -- of events, would have been going in to work that morning. let me know if i've gone past my 10 minutes. get the hook or get the gong. there is something i would like to talk about briefly in closing. there have been a lot of media stories written about our heather -- our daughter
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heather's activities on the morning of 9/11 launching in her , f-16 and everything that transpired afterwards. and, i had been interviewed about that also. they have used some artistic license in trying to say that heather could have thought she was maybe taking off and could have shot down an airliner that i may have been the captain of area i had been to the east coast. i had in fact recently flown some flights from the east coast and on a layover here when i arrived door was getting ready to leave. fact. as i said, i had called heather. when i was here on those layovers. another fact.
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flying know if i was that morning? no, she did not. fact. heather as you have seen from , her story, was totally focused on the mission at hand. to perform her duty as an f-16 , and in a correct manner do whatever was required on that morning, to try to protect her country. now, the supposition by some of these news writers to try to come up again using dramatic , license, try to make us sound as if our daughter heather was running out to the airplane are getting airborne and heading on out looking for united flight 93 and they did not know if it was 93, just that it was an down but -- it was inbound, was that she was thinking -- my dad might be oh my gosh, a captain on this airplane and i might have to bring down an airplane for which my dad is on board. that is not the case at all. she was totally focused on the mission at hand.
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so, there was a lot of artistic license taken by people who have written stories about this, and that gives me some concern. heather talked about the true heroes on united flight 93. she has been called a hero by some people who have written and she has, as you heard by her declaration, she discounts being called a hero. on that day. she did not use the terminology, but she said that she was an accidental witness to history on 9/11, along with marc lle along -- sassevi with so many other people who in the rescue operations. and she said that the true heroes in that chapter of what happened on 9/11 regarding
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flight 93, where those passengers who prevented the terrorists from turning united flight 93 into a weapon of terror, and we should all never forget that. they were a small group of heroes who did that. a very, very small group who all the heroes and responded and did what they did, the pentagon, in the air over washington dc, who responded at the twin trade towers, doing what they could to save as many lives as they could. so, again, thank you very much for listening to my drivel and i guess we will start some question and answer here. thank you very much. [applause]
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christopher: thank you, john. now i am going to go a little bit over so i will keep my job. i think it is important to provide you all at least a few minutes of opportunity to ask questions because you know it is so important not just to tell the story and remember the story, but to get the facts right and who better to answer to that man john and heather. question up here? >> heather, being in my house at about two miles southwest of the national, seeing an f-16 turn onto what would have been final of the unused runway, the ittheast, southwest runway, up and quitey nose slow. only a couple feet. what that you? [laughter]
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>> i don't think i need to repeat the question, i think probably everybody heard that. is, thequestion gentleman witnessed that there was an aircraft at national airport, and wondered if it was in fact heather. heather: no, although i would love to put it in my logbook, i never got into a situation like that. during the course of that day, we did a number of intercepts on small aircraft which, if you are flying a cessna, flying an f-16, picking up speed. so one of the more convenient ways to slow down to get to a closer speed that is more cessna-like is to throw your gear down because that automatically deploys the flaps. you can have a flap override system in the f-16 to manually override but it is not something we normally do. the only thing that i can speculate is that someone -- and
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i did not do that -- i did not make that kind of intercept that day -- is that someone that day later, who took off might have , been able to intercept a small aircraft and would've put his aircraft in that configuration to achieve that kind of speed but that was not me. , >> i'm not sure if it syncs up with the timing of what you witnessed, but i do know that when the air traffic system was effectively being shut down we did have arrivals into reagan coming in and it was at that point determined better to get them on the ground even if it was reagan national at the time, rather than someone else. ofo know that in the midst everything happening, we were getting some arrivals into reagan national. i do remember watching a 7:27 coming in and having that same thought.
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>> prior to 9/11, you said -- something about coming over. if you were on hot standby as of procedure, what would that have gained for your mission after 2001? >> do you want to repeat the question? heather: i will. the question is about, correct me if i am wrong, you are interested in the units which were sitting alert, what was there response -- what was their response? on alert inen washington dc, what with that response have in life? the aircraft sitting on alert, they had preplanned profiles. when they were scrambled, they would jump in their aircraft and take off over the atlantic. that is why you have the aircraft that were attached to langley actually taking off and flying east over the atlantic of
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-- and why you have the aircraft that was sitting alert at otis flying over the atlantic, before they are turned around to his on to these threats that were actually internal. so, had andrews been sitting alert, would that have solved the problem? i cannot speculate and then educated manner because there are a number of things that would've needed to happen within, not just how their profile looks like, how long it would've taken them to turn around, the chain of command, what would trigger that kind of risk on, etc.. unfortunately i do not think it is fair to what have, could have, should have. it just is. >> the gentleman in the redshirt? >> i was one of those rescue workers working that day. heather: thank you. >> no, i want to thank you , because they pulled us away from doing what we was trained to do for years at that moment. until those fighters showed up.
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we were trained. you are absolutely correct. we were trained. we are thanking you all for -- save usto save up and look out for us to read and i want to thank you. [applause] -- we are thanking you all for showing up to save us and looking out for us. i want to thank you. [applause] >> right here, sir. >> did you have any weapons on your f-16? heather: the question was, we did not have missiles but did we have any kind of weapon load-out. we routinely flew with 105 rounds of love on the nose, partly for a weight balance issue, but does bullets were connecticut bullets, they were lead-nose.
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they were just lead balls. when we go to combat, we fly with those. fightersn in the f-16 its rounds at 6000 rounds per minute. so 510 rounds is a little over five seconds of guns and 100 rounds is one second of guns. we knew taking off, that between the two of us, even with perfect aim that 200 rounds would be utterly insufficient to take down airliner. -- to take down airliner. >> in the back, sir. >> declared the civil aircraft coming down as the date of -- as the day progressed, who had the authority or took two downsto authorize of civil aircraft? was it on the white house? heather: we were provided -- the question is, after all the civil
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aircraft were grounded, who had the command and control who had , the authority to declare an aircraft hostile so we could take it down? typically, within combat operations the rules of , engagement have a very specific matrix that you have to fulfill in order to be able to shoot somebody down. we need to know what the aircraft is. where it originated from, how does it have hostile intent, things like that. r.o.e that we had, that was actually provided, it meant that as an individual fighter pilot sitting in my f-16, i, heather any, -- heather penney, made the decision to shoot down an aircraft. i did not need to ask, mother may i? there was no going up the chain of command. which, i mean, two things.
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the level of risk that was assumed by enabling us to make that decision was necessary because of the confusion and the chaos going on within all of the military elements because as you mentioned, there was no chain of command. -- there was no clear chain of command. there was nothing set up to be able to support that kind of our .e. hat kind of r.o my other observation is that nobody used that authorization. so, within the chaos and b fargo -- the fog of war, the confusion, and as you can also imagine, the anger, all of those emotions that every american was feeling that morning, it was overcome by the professionalism and the discipline of every fighter pilot who was airborne that morning, that they chose
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not to use it. because the skies were still full of airplanes. there were people who had there , was a time when you did not have to file before you flew. you did not have to talk on the radio or file a flight plan. if you did not listen or watch the news that morning, you just got up and went into your little airplane and poured on some oil and took off. you had no idea that we had just suddenly shut down the entire national airspace. so i think it is also truly a testament, to the professionalism of all of us who were airborne that day, that we did not actually get trigger happy. i have a lot of guilt of what i must have done to their poor little wings, owning the airplanes myself. i must've scared the heck out of
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them, but we did, and we kept everyone safe to read here is what i want to bring up. chris, this is tied to your story. is how underappreciated, the is, as a response to 9/11. i would love to kiss those air-traffic controllers because their mental agility in , transitioning from keeping aircraft separated and sequencing them, from the most effective operations to get them on final landing and taking off, so confident -- competent. when staffers said, hey, potomac , do you have any military background? ok. national vortec,
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can we call that bullseye. >> you have it underscore? you have the radials coming off of there. you have the range rings. so if you see a contact that is due east on the radar, and it is 30 miles away, here is what i want you to say. you know, contact bullseye 090. 430. and if you get an altitude cut, give me the altitude as well. and like that, the controllers swapped their mental approach, they swapped their paradigm and adopted our fighter pilot language and they helped facilitate our ability to clear the air space and then, as congestedce got super with all of the responders, the helicopters, the medevac's, the army flights, not only did they call out the unknown okies, -- the unknown bogeys, they also called out the aircraft we knew
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were friendly's. and they would say hey, that is flight 90 -- whatever, this is their bull's-eye cut. this is their destination. so we did not have to waste our iese on friendly's --friendl who were helping to respond and take care of people and we could yscus on the unknown, the boge and keep everyone safe area at i really think that potomac is the unsung heroes here. >> absolutely. i know we're going a little bit over but we will take one more question, if there is another question in the audience. >> fly out of my airport, the airport near annapolis, we were near the arrivals, of dwi. after 9/11, it was so eerily quiet. i know you do not call yourself a hero, the only thing we heard
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were the f-16's. it was an extreme comfort when i knew it would issue. -- when i knew it was you. thank you so much. [applause] >> on that note, i think we will go ahead and wrap up. i want to thank all of you for taking time this evening to listen to the story. as mentioned, it is an important story to be remembered, and unimportant story to be told and retold. we were very fortunate to have john and penny join us tonight. again, thank you for taking the time. both of you. for what you have done for aviation in this country. [applause] i would appreciate that we will not be able to provide autographs tonight, i know that sometimes we do, but given the hour, we will not be able to do that. and your entire
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team, thank you for sponsoring this event past events, and , future events. thank you so much. [applause] and i guess i will just close by saying, i hope in a few days time on the 11th of september, will and your own way remember that day, what it meant to this nation, and to what it meant to us individually, collectively and take a moment to thank those people that sacrificed so much that day and lived on in our memories. thank you and have a great evening. [applause] join usr: next sunday, at 7 p.m. eastern as we continue hours yuri's featuring oral history interviews with nationally recognized photojournalists. you can watch our programs anytime on our website at the americanatching
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history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. >> during tuesday's washington journal, we are live in annapolis, maryland as first -- as part of the city to work. our guest will be the lieutenant governor rod afford. -- rod afford. and join us tuesday beginning at 7 a.m. eastern on c-span. >> this year, c-span is touring cities across the country, exploring american history. next, a look at our recent visit to concorde, new hampshire. you're watching "american history tv," all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. announcer 1: while in concord, we toured the city with lawyer and former new hampshire u.s. representative charles douglas. >> chuck, thank you for agreeing to show us around concorde. for people who have not been here, this is my first time, what do they need to know about concord, new hampshire?


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